New interests, new friends!

Aside from my Partner, Lindsay, not many people are likely aware of a new thing that I’m doing. I’ve decided to take my interest and curiosity towards technology and computing to a new group. I’m now offering my services to artists and interested people as a consultant, to bring technology into the gallery for artists who want to, but don’t have the skills to implement it. This isn’t a drop everything, quit my job and go whole hog venture; I don’t believe the market exists to support me full time in this right now… but who knows, Maybe I’ll learn otherwise!

I welcome anyone to check out my statement, see what I’m offering and give me any feedback they think might be helpful!

http://www.nelsonm.com/arts-technology-consulting/

Still having fun with Arduino!

I’m still plugging away at the whole Arduino “thing”. It’s pretty neat to see your basic commands in an IDE, paired with some easy wiring on a breadboard, delivering a machine that responds to your touches and whims. Obviously this example isn’t ridiculously complicated, but I can easily imagine expanding this to… I don’t know, a robot steering wheel. The book example suggests making some cardboard cutouts so that this can control an electronic Do-Not-Disturb sign, which is silly, but potentially cute.

People have started to notice that I’m playing with this stuff, and I’ve been asked questions along the lines of “what to you plan to do with this?” It’s weird to me that someone would need a reason to do something like this, it’s cool, I’m learning stuff, and most importantly, I’m having fun. Of course, it would be neat to build something all out my own head, I’ve thought about pairing with a Raspberry Pi, or BeagleBone or something to that effect to make an All-in-one electronic drum kit that doesn’t need a separate computer or brain, just plug in to an amp, but that’s pretty far away from making a few LEDs blink or motors spin. Heck, I don’t even know if it’s feasible! I presume it would have already been done if it was a thing that made sense. Particularly considering the number of e-drum kits out on the electronics hobbyist market.

I guess we’ll see what the future brings me as I gain knowledge and confidence, until then, I’m happy with a few beeps and buzzes.

Here is the code, for anyone interested. Care of Lesson 05 of The Arduino Starter Kit

#include <servo.h>;

Servo myServo;
int const potPin = A0;
int potVal;
int angle;

void setup(){
myServo.attach(9);
Serial.begin(9600);
}

void loop(){
potVal = analogRead(potPin);
Serial.print("potVal: ");
Serial.print(potVal);
angle = map(potVal, 0, 1023, 0, 179);
Serial.print("angle: ");
Serial.println(angle);

myServo.write(angle);
delay(15);
}

My first non-theoretical circuit.

So, in physics class in high school we didn’t spend a great deal of time on electronics. There was theory, ohms law, and graph paper circuits. But then we had to move on to light wavelengths and toothpick bridge building. I think I would have stayed interested in that class had there been more electronics and less mechanics.

With that in mind, since I had a bit of time, I pulled out the Arduino and set up the little workstation it came with and made a little circuit!

Sure, it’s simplistic, and copied out of a book, but hey! Everyone starts somewhere, and I’ve proven that I can follow basic instructions.

Most importantly though, I’ve made something that does something because of something I did. The Arduino is just providing power and ground here, not any programming or controls.

It’s pretty great, isn’t it.

Unboxing the Arduino Starter Kit

So there’s some exciting news in the world of what Nelson does with his spare time! I’ve always had an interest in electronics, programming, computers, technology and the cool things that can be done with them. However, I’ve never really taken the time to do anything about my interest. I always figured that I didn’t have the education, or I didn’t have the money, or any number of other excuses to not do something that I know I’ll enjoy.

Well, no more. I took the plunge just three days ago and I ordered the Arduino Starter Kit from spikenzielabs.com. Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board. spikenzielabs is an electronics kits and DIY electronics supplier that appears to be based out of Montreal, Quebec. A cool bonus I found with my order at spikenzielabs was that because my order was over a certain dollar value, it was eligible for a “free” gift, in this case I selected a 2 line by 16 character white on blue display panel, this might come in handy some day :-) Anyways, on with the unboxing!

Pete Seeger dead: folk singer and activist dies at 94

Pete Seeger dead: folk singer and activist dies at 94 – World – CBC News.

Pete Seeger was an awesome and inspirational human being

Habit RPG

So, I’ve never been much of a gamer. I played AD&D when I was younger, then World of Warcraft when I was older. I played RPGs in similar veins like Baldurs Gate, and Icewind Dale, and I read fantasy novels like they’re going out of style — but we all know that fantasy is never going out of style.

Recently my partner Lindsay educated me that there’s a new game out there by the name of Habit RPG, what’s interesting about it and what sets it apart from pretty much every other game I’m used to is that the game play is actually just your own every day actions. It turns my life into a game, with Experience points, levels, monsters, and all the things I love about fantasy. It’s really kind of neat. I’ve only been playing for a couple of days now but I think it’s a keeper. I found myself earlier today looking forward to the tasks that I’ve set up for myself. The concept is pretty rad, and I think for people like me who need a little encouragement to get stuff done, this is a really cool tool!

Once more around the sun.

I don’t have much to say today, it’s my birthday. Thirty-three times around the sun. I’ve been thinking about my lot in life, where I am, and where I want to be. I’ve been a computer technician for nearly eight years now. I’m damn good at it; but I feel like I need to be more than that.

Do I have what it takes to be a leader? I don’t know. I think I do, but it’s a daunting challenge. My current job doesn’t seem to have the opportunities for growth that I need, or they have already decided that other people should be given those opportunities. When I ask for new challenges, or for time to learn beyond my role, I see that my schedule is filled with more of the same, and other people are being given extended time to learn and grow.

I don’t want to imply that my employer is neglecting me, but I think that there may be politics involved that I’m not aware of. I’m disappointed I think, but not surprised. Humans are human after all, they make mistakes. It will be a matter of time in determining if the mistake is mine, or theirs. Am I over-estimating myself? Are they under estimating me? Or is it simply that they see something in other people that I don’t. Am I jealous?

I don’t know, maybe I’m just feeling old. I’d love to be twenty-five again, maybe I’d be more adamant in my career path. If I knew that the box I was about to climb into was more of a cage than I expected, I may have made different choices. It’s too bad I can’t just quit and start fresh somewhere. There’s so much risk and uncertainty that I can’t afford with that. I have bills, and life and bills and debts to pay. I can’t just pack it in for the sake of some elusive happiness.

Maybe I will start applying for jobs though. Just to see what happens.

Talking about Art.

I realized last night while watching Face Off that I can no longer say, “I don’t know anything about Art”. It’s true, I really couldn’t tell the difference between a Mondrian and a Rodchenko. It was a handy excuse if someone asked my opinion, or if Lindsay took me to an art opening… Please don’t ask for my opinion, because it’s not valuable in this space.

But I think I can’t do that any more. I think this comes partly from proof-reading Lindsay’s essays and listening to her complain about art school. I know what formalism is, and that I dislike it. I know that there’s a difference between constructivism and suprematism, and that both are really cool to look at.

I wonder what triggered this change in my perspective, something clicked last night… possibly that the fancy assed TV people who are supposedly knowledgeable in an artistic field didn’t know something about art that to me, was painfully obvious. Seriously, if you’re going to ask someone to make a constructivist art piece, give them an actual example of constructivism to work with… not some post-modern, abstract, expressionist, colour field bullshit.

I have a writing problem.

Sometimes, and honestly it’s quite frequently, I can’t seem to find inspiration to write. When I do, I start thinking “If only I had a tool to make writing easier for me.” So rather than pick up one of the many tools at my disposal, I start looking for something new. Now I’m at a place where I have more tools than I could want. I can use Pages, Scrivener, BBEdit, Text Edit, vim, this WordPress, tumblr, blogger, Google+, LinkedIn, draftin.com, evernote, or even one of many notepads that I have lying around my apartment. I can write plain text, HTML, DocBook, \LaTeX, or if I wanted, I could pick a scripting or programming language that does more than just present words such as BaSH, C++, or even VBScript.

Each of these tools, languages, or markups have their uses. All of them are good in their own regard, but none of them provide implicit guidance for the content. There are a few things I tend to fall back to time and time again. I like my Blog for stream of consciousness blathering; for the kind of uncensored thought dumps that I need to get out in either a private or a public post. I like \LaTeX for the times I want to get formal and write an article or essay. I like bash scripting to simplify tedious tasks I do on my computer like formatting partitions. Finally, I like my IBM “Think” notepad for doodles and jotting down ideas.

I’m going to pause now, because once again, I thought of a “Tool” that I might want. I’ve been writing \LaTeX as \LaTeX{} without remembering that wordpress might not format those expressions correctly… Thank you WP QuickLaTeX, all I had to do was disable the “Photon” service from Jetpack, it appears as though it doesn’t like the SVG graphics you provide. That was a nice little five minute break.

Anyways, back to my writing problem. I’ve mentioned that I can get distracted by tools and have difficulty addressing content sometimes. But that’s not to say that when I do have something to write about I won’t. I honestly do want to write about things, but procrastination, self-doubt, and fear of failure are powerful anti-motivators. I think I need a nudge, I’m stagnating and I’m afraid I’m getting stuck in a place that isn’t exactly where I want to be. The most dangerous part of getting stuck where I am now, is that it’s actually not that bad! I like going to work and solving the problems it presents, and making someones life just a little bit better. I like connecting with my team and having great conversations about Life, The Universe, and Everything.

My life isn’t amazing, but it’s good. Maybe even great, and for some people that would be enough. But not for me.

I need to figure out how to get out of this rut, I find – back to writing – that when I’m growing and moving and actively changing I have more to write about. Once I slow down, so do my ideas. I need to find out what kind of path I need to take in order to get to where I will be happiest and most productive. Looking at advancement in my current role looks… different… than I expected. Apparently within my environment, if I want to move up, I must want to join management.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a manager, it that I don’t know what it would entail. I don’t know if I’d be good at it, so I have worries that I’d be terrible at it. Silly worries I’m sure, but still. As I said earlier about anti-motivators.

Anyways, I started talking about writing, and drifted into ranting about my future. I think that’s enough for now.

Update: I’m now using the Jetpack “Beautiful Math” module. It’s just as easy and requires less plugin maintenance on my part.

A basic template for MLA Papers written with LaTeX

So I like learning about writing, different tools are always interesting to learn about, and lately I’ve been digging into the world of LaTeX. It’s predominantly used for Maths and science writing, but I wanted to see if it would be useful for my partner in Fine Arts… partially as an excuse to install the tools on her computer for when I’m not near my iMac.

I could have just installed the tools anyways, but I like to feel justified. So here’s a quick template for making an MLA Formatted paper with LaTeX.

This Plus this really neat citation tool I found called “Zotero” make for what seems to me like pretty easy document creation.

I’m still figuring out how to control image placement a bit more though, that will come with time I’m sure!


\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{ifpdf} % Phrases for the MLA Document formatting
\usepackage{mla} % mla-paper package by Ryan Aycock

\usepackage[american]{babel} % Phrases for MLA Reference and bibliography formatting.
\usepackage{csquotes} % Ctations with with \autocite[pre][number]{ref-key}
\usepackage[style=mla]{biblatex} % does not appear to work using bibtex, be sure to use biber to process.
\addbibresource{bibfile.bib} % biblatex-mla package by James Clawson

\begin{document}
\begin{mla}
%Fill in the next line appropriately then start writing (mla-paper)
{Firstname}{Lastname}{Prof's lastname}{class name}{date}{Paper title}
This is where my words go!
\printbibliography %if you want to print the Work Cited. (biblatex-mla)
\end{mla}
\end{document}

There’s some other stuff to put in that preamble section as well, just to make it prettier. I add the following on the line after …bibfile.bib}


%% LaTeX Preamble - Common packages

\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc} % Any characters can be typed directly from the keyboard, eg éçñ
\usepackage{textcomp} % provide lots of new symbols
\usepackage{graphicx} % Add graphics capabilities
\usepackage{flafter} % Don't place floats before their definition

\usepackage[pdftex,bookmarks,colorlinks,breaklinks]{hyperref} % PDF hyperlinks, with coloured links
\definecolor{dullmagenta}{rgb}{0.4,0,0.4} % #660066
\definecolor{darkblue}{rgb}{0,0,0.4}
\hypersetup{linkcolor=red,citecolor=blue,filecolor=dullmagenta,urlcolor=darkblue} % coloured links
%\hypersetup{linkcolor=black,citecolor=black,filecolor=black,urlcolor=black} % black links, for printed output

\usepackage{memhfixc} % remove conflict between the memoir class & hyperref
\usepackage{pdfsync} % enable tex source and pdf output syncronicity

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